Opinions have been sharply divided this week over Ed Miliband’s policy announcements in his party conference speech. Yet there has been almost total agreement about the scale of his performance. His speech was more than an hour long, with no notes and yet delivered with considerable fluency.
In contrast this week, conducting a presentation training course, I was struck by the participants’ struggle to sound coherent and make contact with their audience. As part of the day’s session I told them to put away their notes and simply speak to their subject for five minutes. In almost every case as they stepped up to the lectern, a faraway look came into their eyes as they tried to memorise the disparate list of facts they had assembled.
Committing a list to memory is a lengthy task for which busy executives have no time. However by fashioning that list into a sequence with a beginning and a logical progression towards a conclusion, the task becomes easier and the performance becomes more convincing. In other words, tell a story.
It is all in the writing. Clearly Mr Miliband and his aides had worked on a pattern or sequence where one topic led naturally into the next. Each topic then triggered a joke, a new slogan, another rallying-cry.
I spend much of my time telling participants on training courses to avoid sounding like politicians. On this rare occasion, however, there is a lesson to be learned.